Blandy's Madeira Colheita Malmsey Single Harvest (500ML) 1990
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Best known for intense, impressive and age-worthy fortified wines, Portugal relies almost exclusively on its many indigenous grape varieties. Bordering Spain to its north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean on its west and south coasts, this is a land where tradition reigns supreme, due to its relative geographical and, for much of the 20th century, political isolation. A long and narrow but small country, Portugal claims considerable diversity in climate and wine styles, with milder weather in the north and significantly more rainfall near the coast.
While Port (named after its city of Oporto on the Atlantic Coast at the end of the Douro Valley), made Portugal famous, Portugal is also an excellent source of dry red and white wines of various styles.
The Duoro Valley produces full-bodied and concentrated dry red wines made from the same set of grape varieties used for Port, which include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, among a long list of others in minor proportions.
Other dry wines include the tart, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde white wine, made in the north, and the bright, elegant reds and whites of the Dão as well as the bold, and fruit-driven reds and whites of the southern, Alentejo.
The nation’s other important fortified wine, Madeira, is produced on the eponymous island off the North African coast.
A fortified wine named after the steep, volcanic, solitary island from which it comes, Madeira, the wine, was born more or less out of a mistake, as is the case with many wine styles of the world.
During the 1600s and 1700s, this island was an important pit stop for sea treks to the Americas and East Indies. Shippers would load up on the wine made here during their journey across the Atlantic. Given Madeira’s likelihood to spoil on the way, they added a little high proof alcohol (likely distilled from cane sugar) to help preserve it. The subsequent heating and cooling of the casks, as they made their way across the sea, deepened and improved the wines’ flavors.
Five different grape varieties are used. Tinta Negra is the main red variety. Its versitility makes it ideal for the more everyday styles. Sercial shows lemony, spice and herbal notes with a stony mineral character and make great aperitif wines. Verdelho is smoky and dry and pairs with a variety of foods. Boal is complex with flavors of roasted coffee, caramel, cocoa and dates. Malmsey is the sweetest and fruitiest with roasted nut and chocolate notes.